Thousands of mourners attend Hasidic rabbi’s funeral in Israel, leading to clashes with police


(JTA) — A funeral that had gotten special permission to include hundreds of people instead drew thousands to the Israeli city of Ashdod, resulting in clashes between mourners and police who attempted to disperse them.

The funeral was for Rabbi Mordechai Leifer, 65, known as the Rebbe of Pittsburgh, who died of the coronavirus amid Israel’s current spike in cases. His Hasidic sect was founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, about 100 years ago, and he had led his followers, several dozen families, in Ashdod for decades.

Israel is under lockdown, but Leifer’s funeral had been permitted to go on as long as those in attendance, which police had capped at about 400, wore masks and practiced appropriate social distancing. But the large number of funeral attendees that showed up, numbering about 5,000, made distancing impossible, according to Israel’s Channel 12.

Clashes broke out between mourners and police, as police attempted to disperse those gathered for the funeral, Ynet reported.

The clashes came a day after reported violence between police and haredi Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem neighborhoods and in the haredi Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak over enforcement of the lockdown rules. Police found synagogues and yeshivas full of people in the neighborhoods and handed out fines, leading to the unrest, and at least 20 people were arrested in the clashes.

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